Why should I have my rabbit neutered?
Rabbits are social animals and ideally should be kept in pairs. Unfortunately, this can lead to a number of problems. Entire male and female rabbits kept together will mate. Same sex pairs are prone to aggression and fighting with each other.
Aggression is more common in un-neutered male and female rabbits. Female rabbits in particular can be very aggressive and difficult to handle if left entire. Aggression can be towards other rabbits and even the owners.
Entire females are also prone to uterine infections (pyometra) and uterine tumours. In fact almost 80% of entire female rabbits will suffer from uterine tumours. Neutered male rabbits are less likely to spray urine.
What is involved in neutering my rabbit?
A general anaesthetic is required for neutering of both male and female rabbits.
An ovario-hysterectomy is the term for spaying or neutering female rabbits. A small incision is made under the abdomen (belly). Both the ovaries and uterus are removed. Sutures/stitches are placed under the skin. Surgery can be performed at any age but is best done at about 6 months of age. Castration is the surgical removal of the testicles. The operation may be performed on any male rabbit from 4 months of age onwards. A small incision is made just in front of the scrotum and the testicles are removed. Sutures/ stitches are placed under the skin.
Is there a risk with the anaesthetic?
There is always a risk with any general anaesthetic and this risk is slightly higher with rabbits.
Another issue to be considered with anaesthetics and indeed any ‘stressful’ situation for a rabbit is ‘gut stasis’. This is when the gut stops moving and a painful build up of gas occurs. Clinical signs of gut stasis include inappetance, reduced or lack of faecal production, and severe discomfort. To prevent this, an injection to stimulate the gut is routinely given. Pain killers are also given to ensure the rabbit is comfortable and eating as soon as possible. You do not need to fast your rabbit prior to the anaesthetic. We normally advise you to bring your rabbit’s usual food in on the day of surgery so that they continue to eat right up until they have their procedure. They also then have something familiar to eat as soon as they have woken up from the anaesthetic.
What care is required after the surgery?
Your rabbit will usually be discharged the same day as the surgery, providing you can keep him/her somewhere warm and quiet for the first night. Your rabbit will be discharged with pain relief for a minimum of five days in the form of a liquid. It is important that you monitor your pet’s eating and how much faeces they pass. If your rabbit is not eating or does not produce normal quantities of faeces he/she may have ‘gut stasis’ or be experiencing pain from the surgery.
As the stitches are below the skin your rabbit should leave the wound alone. If this is not the case we can provide a buster collar. Collars are not routinely used as they can increase the stress for the rabbit, which may result in gut stasis, and prevent the rabbit from eating both their food and ‘caecotrophs’. A post-operative check will be scheduled for the following day as well as 7 days after the surgery